Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some insight from NetWork 2010

I just ordered "42 Rules for Successful Collaboration: A Practical Approach to Working with People, Processes and Technology," by David Coleman. Here's how I learned about the book (and about the existence of the "42 Rules" series).

I use Google Reader to monitor a bunch of feeds relevant to my work. One of those feeds is ReadWriteWeb. They posted "Video: Analyzing the State of Collaboration,"  which linked to this video from the NetWork Conference, sponsored by Gigaom on Dec. 9, 2010 in San Francisco. The video featured JP Finnell, Managing Partner of Mobility Partners, LLC, interviewing David Coleman and Sameer Patel about what they see in their work as collaboration consultants. Sameer is Managing Director at the Sovos Group. David is Managing Director at Collaborative Strategies. Both interviewees are immersed in collaboration and collaborative technologies in for-profit enterprises. Collaborative Strategies even offers an on-line self-assessment to help organizations measure their current environment's collaboration climate.

I watched this 20 minute video (in which Coleman hawks the book)

Watch live streaming video from gigaomtv at livestream.com
and I liked a lot of what these guys had to say. I'll share two ideas from them.

I was especially impressed by Coleman's theory that technology is only 20% of the collaboration equation, while people and process are 80%. So he advocates approaching collaboration by bring the people first, then the process, and the technology enters the picture last. Very smart, intuitive approach, but most organization's probably start with the technology and try to make it drive the other components.

Patel's attempt to debunk the millennial/boomer technology divide myth also resonated with me. I agree with his conclusion that it's "B.S" And those kinds of generalizations about technology facility across generations (young = savvy; old = luddite) really don't help to facilitate collaboration across the work force spectrum.

The path that led me to Coleman's book also got me thinking about the role of intention in collaboration. I'm going to mull that over and blog about it later in the week. . .

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Collaboration is a two-way street

A quick and dirty google search on the word collaboration turns up 90,200,000 hits this morning. Collaboration has become the cure-all for everything that ails us in these times. It's tossed about like a life ring to every sinking body. Grab hold! Collaboration will save you! And despite my skeptical tone, I think it very well could be the case. The key to making it so is not simply collaboration, but strategic collaboration. The starting point for strategic collaboration is not a survey of the landscape, it's a close and careful review of your organization's mission, vision, values, strategic plan and operational plan. Those organic documents will provide the foundation upon which to build your collaborations.

Look at those areas where you're not meeting your goals. Identify the reasons for the performance gap and think about whether there are potential partners that might help you fill it. Think beyond the usual suspects.What type of service, skill, product or expertise is needed to help you reach your goal? Who might have what you need? Who is doing it well and could provide some valuable insight and advice?

Now go back to your documents and figure out what you're doing well. What do you have to offer as a collaborative partner? Remember, collaboration is a two-way street. Know what your strengths are and be alert to opportunities that may arise in the course of your work. If you listen carefully you're likely to hear of needs that your organization can fill for others. If you begin to build a reputation as a proactive and responsive collaborator you're likely to find more opportunities opening up to you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Library Collaborations in New York State

Yesterday I was invited to attend a Public Policy and Advocacy Summit for the Academic and Research Library Community hosted by the New York State Higher Education initiative (NYSHEI). This is the 2nd annual meeting of the group and I commend Jason Kramer, Executive Director, for leading this initiative to coordinate efforts across organizations. Representatives from 21 entities attended, including state, private and non-profit concerns. The group came together with no formal agenda, and each party was given the opportunity to talk about policy and advocacy issues in their particular sphere of influence. I left the meeting feeling grateful to be an independent 501(c)(3) and not bogged down by the bureaucracy of state policies and procedures! Here's the conundrum state funded libraries and institutions in NY are facing.

First, as might be expected, the state of the economy means potentially enormous budget cuts for state-funded libraries. In New York, the state comptroller, Thomas Dinapoli, quoted the current deficit at nearly one billion dollars (as of mid-Nov., 2010). So of course some efficiencies need to be explored. Belts need to be tightened. Effective collaboration is one key tool in efforts to cut costs and reduce redundancies. And at no time in my tenure as a consortium leader have a I seen the climate so receptive to collaborative efforts as it is today. People realize that the status quo simply can't hold. The attendees at yesterday's summit are the leaders in the library community in NYS, and clearly have the will to collaborate. But procurement policies imposed by the state seriously hinder their ability to do so. I'm not up on the specifics of those policies but from what I could glean from the meeting, expenditures at different dollar amounts trigger different, and increasingly stringent, levels of scrutiny. The dollar amounts quoted represent fairly typical expenditures for library acquisitions. However, the procurement procedures bog down library expenditures to the point that the libraries are unable to be responsive to opportunities for collaboration when they arise. This really puts these libraries in a catch-22 situation. Their funding is cut, they identify viable solutions through collaboration, but they are unable to respond in a timely manner due to procurement policies, which makes them unattractive partners for collaboration!

The group identified this as a major stumbling block and therefore a key area for advocacy efforts. I'll report back on the results of their important work in the coming months.

Monday, December 6, 2010

TEDx musings

It's been more than two weeks since I attended TEDx McGill. Several colleagues have asked me to report out on the experience but I needed some time for it all to percolate. So now I'm ready to share. One of the first things I would note is that TEDx events are licensed by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) but are independently organized by the host institution. The McGill event was held at Marché Bonsecours‎, a beautiful venue in Old Montreal near Port de Montreal. The full-day event began at noon and was slated to finish by 7:00, but it was closer to 8:00 when we wrapped up and went in search of dinner*.

The TEDx host develops the theme and does all of the content planning, etc. In the case of TEDxMcGill the theme was "Relentless Curiosity." The presenters covered topics including sustainability, importance of place, impact of language on healing, activism and beaver sculptures! We enjoyed several musical presentations, including a violinist accompanied by a laptop musician, and a rap singer with a personal survival story to tell. The sort of rapid-fire pace of the presentations left very little time for reflection during the event, and immediately afterward I felt shell-shocked by the information overload and anxious to decompress. That evening, my 'relentlesss curiosity' was piqued by one question: what was the connection? How did those things all weave together to deliver something cohesive? It wasn't immediately obvious to me.

Over the course of the next few days I came to a few conclusions. First, the topics didn't weave together neatly, and they didn't need to. Each attendee came with a different world view and something would undoubtedly strike a chord with each of us throughout the course of the day. What we took away depended upon what we brought. Second, I wasn't the target audience for TEDx McGill. My son and his contemporaries were. It's not that I wasn't inspired but the day's events, but what's really important is that Sam and his generation find purpose and work to make a difference, in whatever discipline they choose. They need to be inspired, and I think TEDx McGill succeeded in the goal of inspiring their target audience. Sam came away from the day knowing that one determined person can make a difference, and more importantly, realizing he could be that one determined person!

I think the concept of TEDx is a great one. You can really tailor the day and the message to your audience. I'd be interested in hosting one on the topic of the future of libraries, collaboration, the changing face of information, intellectual property, first amendment. . . Anyone game?

*For dinner we wanted tapas. We landed at Solmar, a Portugese place. The vibe was kind of blue hair Miami or white shoe New York City, but the Caesar Salad prepared tableside was the realest deal I've had in a long time. And the company was excellent! My son Sam, his girlfriend Danielle, Sam's new roommate Bernard and Bernard's little brother Deo made for some lively conversation!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting real about going virtual

Today I was reading Stephen Abram's blog, Stephen's Lighthouse, and his post urging us to be more proactive when it comes to attending virtual conferences and events in 2011. Clearly there are more and more opportunities for virtual participation and an entire industry has sprung up to support it. I'm sure most of us have attended (or even hosted) hybrid conferences that offered at least a virtual component, if not a complete virtual track.

At NELLCO we have dipped our toes into the virtual event water. In 2008 we ran a survey to find out what members wanted from the Interest Groups. We had 54 responses and about 1/5 indicated that they wished we could provide more of an opportunity for distance participation. To help us meet that need we license Webex and use their Event Center as a virtual presentation environment. We have begun making some inroads. We did a 4-part series on advocacy earlier this year, we often host virtual product demos of electronic resources we offer to our members, and we have had a handful of virtual attendees at some of our Interest Group meetings over the last few years. But we haven't developed a standard operating procedure for virtual or hybrid events; it's not yet been operationalized. I'm going to share the two primary reasons for that as well as my personal reservations about jumping into the virtual deep end.

First, we simply lack the internal support system to do virtual well. It's more than just a speaker phone and a conference line. That we can manage. But to really do virtual in a meaningful and engaging way requires good IT support, independent facilitation for in-person and online (and perhaps even back channel) components, and sufficient technology, including video components. So while we will continue to do what we can with our current technologies (webex and audio) we aren't likely to be wowing you with our virtual presence anytime soon. Good intentions on the part of the event host don't necessarily result in a good experience for the participants.

Second, I'm not sure the Interest Groups are the right forum for virtual participation. In the survey mentioned earlier members were even more vocal about the value of the face-to-face experience that the Interest Groups foster. From the responses, attendance at the IG meetings is more about the collegiality, the opportunity to learn firsthand what's happening in other libraries and how folks are managing, coping, leading, etc. While the meeting content is important for members to be able to justify their attendance, the real value is in the other attendees. In Hybrid Meetings That Offer the Best of Both Worlds, an article in Associations Now by Kathleen M. Edwards, one lesson learned by virtual event pioneers is that content is king. Since content isn't the prime mover for our members to attend our IG meetings, it may not be the right place to standardize virtual participation.

So now to my personal reservations. In a nutshell it's this: if we build it, you will come. If all of our meetings and events can be attended virtually, will the entire face-to-face component evaporate? With travel budgets shrinking and demands on staff increasing there might be a big push to 'go virtual' when you can. And if that happens I think the Interest Groups would quickly founder.

In a Leader Connect post, Ahead of the Virtual Event Curve, on 11/23, Rebecca Rolfes offers some sage advice that I take to heart.
Worrying too long about cannibalization only increases the likelihood that someone else will offer your audience a virtual experience that you should have owned.
I think the challenge for NELLCO is offering the right mix of online and onground opportunities. This means being strategic about when, where and how we offer virtual engagement.

What are your thoughts? What's the best or worse attempt you've seen at providing a virtual conference or event experience? Is there a way NELLCO could do more in this arena?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This weekend I'm attending my first ever TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event! At the invitation of my son, Sam and his girlfriend, Danielle, I'm heading to Montreal early Sat. to attend TEDxMcGill! The theme is Relentless Curiosity. I'm so looking forward to the experience. And especially to hearing from Henry Mintzberg, noted Canadian scholar, on why managers need to be curious. In an article in The Economist in 2009, Mintzberg is quoted as saying, "the job of managing is fundamentally one of processing information, notably by talking and especially by listening." He noted that the average manager "thrives on interruptions and more often than not disposes of items in ten minutes or less." And he found that managers were able to engage in sustained, uninterrupted work (more than 30 minutes) only once every two days. You're probably not surprised, given the extreme multi-tasking in which we all regularly participate. But Mintzberg's study took place in 1975! An era devoid of the hyperconnectivity of our modern lives. I am definitely curious to hear his ideas.

Have you attended a TED event? Any tips for me as I prepare? Any stories to share?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Embracing openness to enhance collaboration

We're all agreed that this is a new day in the world of information exchange. It's been said time and again that the impact of the digital revolution on civilization is akin to the advent of the printing press. Absolutely, undisputedly, transformational. But it's not enough just to recognize that truism. We need to absorb it, dissect it, exploit it and embody it. Institutions, organizations, associations, corporations and non-profits can no longer afford to ignore the growing influence of social media as a market influencer. The spin masters are being out-spun in the cloud.

Recently, in many different settings, I've been thinking about this. I was recently invited to attend a workshop at ODDA to help me identify my leadership style as one of either abundance or scarcity. While I couldn't attend I'm pretty sure I know which side of the divide I fall on, and which side I prefer. In other settings I've heard colleagues lamenting over the fact that 'we' can no longer manage (or even monitor) information flow as we have in the past. For the most part, these are my contemporaries, professionals who remember a more orderly and heirarchical communication pattern in the world. And, as anyone who knows my control freak tendencies will suspect, I feel their pain. But we simply don't have the luxury of nostalgia when it comes to leading our organizations. If we ignore the ubiquity of social media in stubborn fealty to the way things were when we were cutting our teeth we'll quickly become obsolete and irrelevant. Instead, we can move forward only if we embrace new media and become active participants.

I'm currently reading Charlene Li's Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, in which she defines open leadership as follows: having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.

Ms. Li suggests five sound rules to guide our behavior as open leaders.
  1. Respect that your customers and employees have power.
  2. Share constantly to build trust.
  3. Nurture curiosity and humility.
  4. Hold openness accountable.
  5. Forgive failure.
She recognizes that there are challenges in adopting an open leadership strategy, but I suspect as I continue reading I'll learn that the benefits outweigh the costs. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lyrasis summit takeaway - Just Start!

On Tues.and Weds. of this week I attended a meeting for library consortium leaders hosted by Lyrasis at their Atlanta headquarters. It's a real pleasure to gather with this group of colleagues and have the opportunity to exchange ideas, challenges, solutions and successes. Their combined expertise is staggering and the group is a think tank for library collaboration. Over the course of our two days together I was reminded of a few familiar adages. The first is if you've seen one consortium, you've seen one consortium! Even though we share so many common features, have similar missions and speak the same language, we are each unique. Whether it's our funding streams, our budgets, our size, our geography, our governance or our infrastructure, each of us has distinct characteristics. In an effort to compile a snapshot of those commonalities and distinctions I ran a survey back in 2005. I've tweaked it a bit to reflect changes in technology and I'm running it again in 2010. If you represent a consortium I would appreciate it if you would complete the survey. It will remain open until the end of Nov. After I compile the results I'll share what I've learned here.

The second adage, which I quote often, is the perfect is the enemy of the good! I thought of this again in Atlanta as I listened to various consortium leaders talking about innovative projects or programs that didn't get off the ground because every imaginable potential shortcoming or problem couldn't be completely addressed in advance (my interpretation, not theirs). Seeking perfection usually results in paralysis. How often have you seen a reality show about hoarding where the compulsive hoarder claims to be a perfectionist? Uh, how's that workin' for ya? I remember when I was in my late 20s and trying to decide whether I should quit my job and risk pursuing an education. I was sitting on a park bench churning the decision over and over and an older woman sat down next to me and just started making conversation. I shared with her what I was struggling with and she gave me the best advice I've ever had. She turned to me and said "Just start." (I stared back blankly) "Just start taking steps in the direction of what you want. If obstacles arise you'll either overcome them or not. But at least you'll know." Nike said it best. Just Do It!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stopping the Echo to Start the Dialogue

A recent posting over at Organsing Chaos highlighted one of the recurring obstacles we as librarians place in front of ourselves. They're referring to it as the Echo Chamber (see Ned Potter's (the wikiman) video below). It's the apparent difficulty we have conveying our value to outsiders. How often have you or one of your colleagues repeated this pronouncement in one form or another: "Librarians just aren't good at marketing ourselves!" The more we repeat it the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! So let's just say no! Let's quit accepting this as fact and start challenging it. The next time you hear it engage in some probing. Ask the speaker if it's a fact or just a perception. Ask for some examples. Have some counter examples ready to share. Ask what steps can be taken to help us become better advocates for our profession. We have to change our own perspective so that we can be more effective in educating others. When those outside of the chamber begin to recognize the value we bring there may be new and unexpected opportunities for collaboration!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Mr. Roget. . .

Look in any thesaurus and you're certain to see cooperation and collaboration listed as synonyms every time. But I would beg to differ. To me, cooperation has a much more passive character. It's what we ask of our toddlers when we're trying to wrestle them into their coats, boots and gloves."Will you please cooperate with me here?" It's a request that they not interfere with our efforts, that they stop struggling. While collaboration connotes something more active (chaotic? frenetic?). It suggests joint, purposeful effort and an expectation of participation. Don't get me wrong. I think both 'C's are generally positive activities and I encourage and appreciate both. But I think it's important that we not confuse them. If we can't tell the difference we risk misconstruing our own efforts. Here's my real life example of how I view the distinction.

When I was interviewing for the position as Executive Director of NELLCO in 2001 I made a presentation to the hiring committee. Before I started my remarks I handed a little stuffed Curious George toy that I had grabbed from my kids' toy box that morning to the person seated to my right (I think it was Blair Kauffman, who was hosting the interview at Yale) and just asked that it be passed around to each member. Then I launched into my presentation, during which I was also able to slip in a reference to Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies. I think it was the most fun I've ever had in an interview! In any case, eventually Curious George made his way back to me at the podium. That was my cue to illustrate the cooperation/collaboration divergence.

Each member of the hiring committee had dutifully and cheerfully complied with my request that they pass George around the room. They had cooperated with me, and with the people seated on either side of them. But not one of them understood the intention or the goal of the exercise. There was no communication, no communal decision-making, no shared expectations. There was no meeting of the minds. So while the group had clearly cooperated, there was no collaboration. Think I can persuade Roget?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Moving to a Culture of Yes!

Today I was listening in on the Law School Tech Talk webcast and the guest speaker, Doug Edmunds, Assistant Dean for IT at UNC Law, made a comment that really struck a chord with me. He mentioned the sort of knee jerk response to change or innovation that we're probably all guilty of at one time or another. It comes in a variety of forms but a few you'll recognize are "that won't work because. . ." or "that might have worked for them but we're different. . ." or "we've always done it this way. . ." In a word, this reaction to change in the workplace amounts to: NO!

For collaboration to flourish the culture of NO has to be abandoned. Workplace leaders have to take conscious steps to develop a culture of YES! This requires a lot of stuff we're not comfortable with, like risk, loss, failure, the unknown. But I think we have to pull our heels from the soil, take off the blinders and adopt this posture before we're made irrelevant by those who are excited about leading change and are willing to experiment.

Do you have any ideas for fostering the Culture of Yes? What have you or others done in your workplace?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Open Access Week

As I'm sure you know, we're smack in the middle of Open Access Week. There are lots of activities planned around the world to promote open access to scholarship. Why should we promote OA as a distribution model? Open access levels the playing field of knowledge to an unprecedented extent. While the digital divide still impacts that access, it's undeniable that OA removes many previous barriers to the democratic dissemination of knowledge. Further, OA enables the scholarly community to gain from the wisdom of the crowd to advance scholarship in new and creative ways.

During OA week, Duke Law School is hosting a one-day conference on Implementing the Durham Statement. Here, James, Boyle, co-founder of Duke Law's Center for the Study of the Public Domain and a founding Director of Creative Commons, talks about the OA and Creative Commons.

How is your library celebrating Open Access Week?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Collaboration in the Heartland

Last week I attended the Mid-America Association of Law Libraries meeting in Iowa City to talk about NELLCO's Universal Search Solution. The last time I attended MAALL was in Norman, OK, in 2003, so it was nice to be back among this group of colleagues. In addition to a great session on the role of the library director given by Randy Diamond (Mizzou) and Katie Hahn (Greensfelder, Hemker and Gale) and a cool tools session where I learned about Gimlet for the first time thanks to Darin Fox, I also attended an update on the Mid-America Law Library Consortium (MALLCO) presented by Susan Goldner, Executive Director.

MALLCO was started in the early 80s, just ahead of NELLCO, and has a long history of collaboration. But for the first time they now have an Executive Director with experience, vision and insight into the world of law libraries. I think this marks a turning point for MALLCO and I am excited to watch them thrive as a result.

Susan reported that MALLCO recently completed a logo design, which will be used in branding the consortium. MALLCO also maintains list-servs for members, and conducts a series of survey for member libraries, the results of which are only made available to participating libraries. The surveys include a salary survey (distributed only to MALLCO Directors), a report of ABA statistics, and a collections and technology survey.

MALLCO recently added 4 new members: Chicago-Kent College of Law; DePaul University; John Marshall Law School; and Loyola University Chicago. You may notice that three of these new MALLCO members are also NELLCO members! This isn't surprising. Libraries often participate in multiple consortia for a number of reasons. Perhaps for access to different resources, programs or projects, or for added opportunitites for networking and collaboration. Are you participating in multiple consortia? Why or why not?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Visionaries in our midst

Quick! Name three! How about Clay Shirky, David Lankes, and Adrian Sannier. If you haven't heard of Dr. Adrian Sannier you're missing out. Adrian is Vice-President of Product Marketing at Pearson eCollege, and former University Technology Officer at Arizona State. I was only introduced to him recently at the Association for Consortium Leadership Annual Meeting where he was the opening speaker. His very passionate presentation was entitled "Looking Ahead in Higher Education." Sounds very, ummmm, generic. A more apt title might have been "Why our educational system is failing our kids and how we need to change NOW!" It was a very insightful look at the absolute primacy of technology and how efforts to deny that reality will destroy democracy as we know it! Well, maybe just a skosh less vehemence but this was the general gist. Whether we agreed with his analysis or not, he made us all sit up and take note. He was provocative and we all talked about his ideas for the rest of the conference.

Afterward I wanted to find out more about him so I googled him and found some great videos from his time at ASU that I'm going to recommend to you. Here's a quote from one of them to give you the flavor of both his ideas and his humor. In one section Adrian discloses that one of his favorite places to seek solitude is in the stacks, since they're air conditioned and deserted. According to Sannier, "As a delivery mechanism for information, bookshelves have seen their day." Keep in mind that these videos are from 2006. Here are links to 3 videos of Sannier talking to the library staff, aptly named Adrian Sannier Talks to the Library Part 1Adrian Sannier Talks to the Library Part 2, and Adrian Sannier Talks to the Library Part 3.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Institutional Repositories

I just attended a webinar hosted by BEPress entitled Kick-Starting IR Success at Any Stage. NELLCO was an early adopter in the repository game and we continue to host and partially underwrite the NELLCO Legal Scholarship Repository (LSR). The LSR has two different components. Under the heading NELLCO Institutional Repositories in Law you will see a listing of the NELLCO members who have implemented a local Digital Commons repository environment. Under the (perhaps misnamed) heading NELLCO Legal Working Paper Series, you'll see the NELLCO libraries that are sharing in a single consortium implementation of Digital Commons. These are two different approaches to the same goal; a repository solution for scholarly and other communications within an institution.

If you glance through the participating libraries' publication sites within the Legal Working Paper Series you'll see varying levels of currency. Not everyone has had great success providing this service to their faculty. Why not? The cost of participating in the shared repository model is minimal given that NELLCO underwrites a significant amount of the annual cost for members. So here is a tool for libraries to engage faculty and provide a persistent and discoverable access point for their scholarship. So why isn't this happening as aggressively as might be expected? We all know it's not a lack of content. Is is lack of support? Lack of understanding? Lack of will?

Michelle Pearse at Harvard was interested in pursuing the role that NELLCO could play in supporting scholarly communication. To that end, we convened a conference call with members to start a conversation and begin exploring possibilities. Only 2 people attended.

Next week is Open Access Week. I'd like to challenge everyone to think about the state of scholarly communications in your institution and where the library could or should be playing a role. Then I'll pose this simple question that resonated with me from the BEPress webinar: How Can We Help?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

That's what she said!

I was thinking about The Office. I love that show and watch it at every opportunity. I watch reruns again and again. It's like the horrifying crash scene that you can't turn away from, and seeing it makes you so grateful that, for the moment, you're safe. But I know that work places like the one portrayed in the show actually exist, and anyone could unknowingly stumble into such a situation as a new employee, like poor Erin.

Anyway, I was trying to measure Dunder Mifflin's Scranton office as a test bed for work place collaboration. My first thought was that it was the perfect example of discord and a complete absence of collaboration. But of course, on closer inspection it's easy to see that there is actually lots of collaboration happening. Pam and Jim collaborate to punk Dwight; the party planning committee collaborates to develop inappropriately themed events; the warehouse staff collaborates to intimidate Michael; the office staff collaborates to mollify Michael. But none of these collaborations, though endlessly entertaining, furthers the mission of the organization. So when is collaboration not a good thing? When it's actually collusion. So The Office turns out to be a great example of this distinction. I knew I'd find some redeeming value in this morbid addiction!

Share your favorite Office example of collusion. C'mon, it's not that hard!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Right Here, Right Now*

If you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to take a look at this youtube video: Did You Know?  I first saw this last year at a Best Practices Exchange conference, entitled Tackling Technology Together, at SUNY Albany. The CIO of New York State, Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, shared it with the attendees at the start of her presentation. By the time the video ended I was horrified! It all seemed so overwhelming! How would we be able to keep up with the pace of technology? How would we be able to continue to manage information? As the image faded from the screen Dr. Mayberry-Stewart turned to us with a huge smile and eyes shining and breathlessly exclaimed something like, "Isn't this a thrilling time?!?" And it took me just about that long to realize that she couldn't be more right!

Since that conference I've shared that video with anyone who will listen. I showed it at the NELLCO Board of Directors meeting. I linked to it in Slice, the NELLCO newsletter. I showed it to everyone in my family. I'm sure I'll use it again in a presentation wherever it will fit. I'm a convert. Take a look and see what you think. And I know there are newer versions, but I'm partial to this one.

Jesus Jones and Fatboy Slim both have songs with this title. You can even get the ringtones!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Crossing Borders; Building Bridges

Over the last several years I've been casting a wider net to accomplish my work and advance NELLCO. Even though we're a non-profit organization, running NELLCO is akin to running a small business. And with a staff of just 2, I wear many hats. I'm the CEO, the director of marketing, cat herder, counsel, the head of HR, cheerleader, CIO and head of IT, communications director, problem solver, director of programs, procurement officer, CFO and chief cook and bottle washer! Each role requires at least a basic skill set, and lots of outside support, to get the job done. So while my content focus is on how law libraries can collaborate and cooperate to maximize resources, I draw from many different sectors to support that goal. I want to share just a few of the great, and perhaps unexpected, connections I've made. I am so grateful to my colleagues in each of these spheres and can't emphasize enough the value of crossing borders to build bridges!


Obviously, next to the NELLCO membership itself, AALL is my go to resource for what's happening in law libraries. Programming at the Annual Meeting and the networking opportunities there, Spectrum, newsletters and list-servs from AALL meet most of my needs in that regard. I also contribute to AALL through my membership, my time serving on committees (currently copyright), serving on programs, writing occasional articles or book reviews, sharing information via social media, etc.

Then I take a step back and keep an eye on ALA and what the trends are in the wider library world. I occasionally attend their meetings and programs and most recently was a presenter for an ALA preconference workshop entitiled Taming the Licensing Tiger at the 2010 Annual Meeting. ALA may turn this program into a webinar, in which case it will continue to provide value. I read ALA publications regularly, follow them on social media, and subscribe to various lists.


The next aspect of NELLCO's identity is as a consortium. From Dictionary.com, here's the legal definition of a consortium: an agreement, combination, or group (as of companies) formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member. There are a few key groups I rely on to help me here. The first is the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC). Yes, this is a consortium of consortia. It's amazing the high level at which this group functions without any infrastructure whatsoever! There are no dues, no elected officers, no bylaws. Just a collegial group of consortium professionals committed to sharing their expertise. Through the meetings and the list-serv of ICOLC I get a good view of how libraries of all stripes across the globe are working in concert.

Moving from the narrow realm of library collaboration to the broader realm of higher education, the Association for Consortium Leadership (ACL) provides more fodder. ACL members include the leaders of higher ed consortia and centers across the country. Some of them include their libraries as part of their collaborative mission and some don't, but the underlying work is the same nonetheless. I've attended their Annual Meeting for a number of years and never walk away without new and relevant ideas that will serve NELLCO. And I have the opportunity to keep libraries on their radars and in the conversation.


In addition to serving law library members as a consortium, NELLCO is also an association. And of course, associations have an association of their own! The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) serves the needs that are unique to associations. Its members are a vastly heterogeneous mix. ASAE offers a completely different and important perspective to NELLCO's arsenal; the business perspective. The other groups I've mentioned in this post are all rooted in academia. Not so for ASAE, they're rooted in the business of running an association. They offer excellent resources, including books, webinars, tools, programming at their Annual Meeting, and networking and mentoring opportunities. As I mentioned in the Slice last month I was able to attend their Annual Meeting for the first time this year thanks to a scholarship I received and I was blown away by the quality of the meeting and the ideas I came away with thanks to the exceptional expertise among their membership.

My point in sharing this is to encourage you to cross borders into other arenas. Think of other groups or professions that might be complementary, or that might share in some aspect of your daily work. Think about spheres where innovative things are happening. Find out if your hunch is right by checking out their membership lists, browing their websites, and following their social media presence. Then start building bridges. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Piercing the Veil

My son Sam is studying philosophy at Concordia and I am thrilled! But not just because this means I get to visit Montreal. I was a philosophy major too, and I have so enjoyed a few skypefests with Sam on the Big Ideas of thinkers like Plato, Descartes, Locke, Mill and Bentham. Higher education is a beautiful thing!

But my recent thinking about the radical changes we're all experiencing in the new reality (i.e. pervasive technology, ubiquitous information, and the wounded economy) has brought me back to another philosopher, John Rawls, and his ideas about the original position. In his Theory of Justice Rawls asks us to imagine ourselves as unfettered by any biases, prejudices or preconceived notions of ourselves or the world we inhabit. From behind this veil of ignorance Rawls would have us construct the ideal society. How would you order the world if you didn't know your place within it? Rawls contends that only in this way can we create a truly just society.

So how does this relate to libraries, or legal information or consortia? Well, we're all struggling to figure out how to move forward in this new era. Business models are like shifting sand. Where there once were seemingly bottomless acquisition budgets, libraries are now just treading water to keep access to what they already have. New acquisitions are luxury items to many. Adding new staff positions is rare, and some vacancies go unfilled in an effort to save. Yet, information providers continue to develop new and important content that will serve library users and advance knowledge. And vendors continue to bring new technologies to market that we want to implement, either to serve our users or to enhance our work flows. How can we continue to serve researchers well, aquire new content and implement new technologies in the current economy? We have to change our business models and our expectations. We have to think in new ways and look for answers in other sectors.

To facilitate this inquiry, I'm inviting us all to step behind the veil of ignorance every time we're trying to puzzle out our business relationships in the new era. Instead of starting the re-imagining process from where we are (a librarian trying to acquire new content or renegotiate a contract, or a publisher trying to develop a new product or expand her existing market), what if we all started from the same place, behind the veil. From that original position there can be no them or us. What kinds of new models might we construct if we're oblivious of our own self-interests? Perhaps it could ignite brilliant collaborations. Just a thought. . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Blog Launch!

OK, I know I'm late to the blogosphere party, and I know the survival of blogging is perenially questioned, but nonetheless I feel compelled to enter the fray. In my position as Executive Director of NELLCO, a consortium of 108 law libraries in 5 countries, I am privileged to enjoy a unique perch from which to view the landscape. I feel a responsibility to share what I have learned and continue to learn in this capacity. Blogging seems to be the best forum for what I have in mind.

In this space I will share what seems worth sharing for my imagined (at this point) audience. That audience includes the NELLCO membership, those interested in libraries (law or otherwise), higher ed collaborators, association professionals, and anyone else who sees the future as largely dependent upon successful collaborations. I'll try to post as regularly as possible and I'm sure I'll get the hang of this (tone, length, what lands and what doesn't) as I move forward. I hope you'll bear with me.

For purposes of this blog I'll use a broad brush to define collaboration. I won't focus on just grand plans and projects that have been consciously designed as collaboration vehicles. My goal is to generate conversation about how and when collaboration works, and how we can all be facilitators of those opportunities when they present themselves.

I plan to post on topics at both the macro and micro level. I was a philosophy major and I love the 30,000 foot view, but I'm also an administrator and there are a lot of practical ideas I'd like to share for getting work done on the ground, especially with limited resources. I hope you'll engage in the discussions when something strikes you, for better or worse! I'm anxious to learn from the collective.

So, that's the framework. We'll see how this goes.